Brazilians love their salgadinhos (appetizers), which are eaten as snacks all day long or as a prelude to a more substantial meal. Here's one of my all-time favorites. Now, whether you can find salt cod where you live is a different story. It should be available all over New England and I know it's available in Canada. Salt cod needs overnight soaking or longer, until it's soft. In Brazil, good quality salt cod is available at specialty markets and (one place I can direct you to...) the central market in São Paulo, the best I've ever seen (see photos below).
Codfish balls are Portuguese in origin (and over there they're shaped differently; if you go to a Portuguese restaurant/bar in Rio, you'll see that they're not round). But, like pizza in the U.S., they were so heartily adopted that they became Brazilian food. They are included in every Brazilian cookbook I've ever read and are served at every party or reception in Brazil. Also, anywhere a very cold beer is served... With this note of cultural caution, here is the recipe, which is absolutely delicious.
1 pound salt cod
2 cups of mashed potatoes
2 tbsps of finely chopped parsley
2 large eggs
oil for frying
Soak salt cod overnight and during the morning, changing water three times. Drain, remove skin and any bones and cut in small chunks. The next step is poaching the cod. In Boston, I learned a great trick from Julia Child, who used to call her fritters Aunt Priscilla's Codfish Balls (there's a Portuguese connection somewhere...). I always do it her way now. Simmer a small onion, thinly sliced, with a bay leaf and 4 peppercorns in 2 cups of water. After 5 minutes, add the cod and 2 cups of water. When it simmers, cover the pan and remove from heat, so the cod doesn't toughen. You can keep the cod in this liquid in the refrigerator until ready to use it.
To form the bolinhos: drain the fish and flake it well into a bowl. Add 2 cups of mashed potatoes; beat two eggs with a pinch of salt and add them to the fish and potatoes. Some cooks like to separate the eggs, adding first the yolks, then the beaten whites. Add the parsley (and if you want, 1 small chopped onion, but I prefer just a bit of parsley myself), salt and freshly grated pepper to taste. Wait about 1/2 hour to form the balls; they should be about 1 1/2 inches. Use good, fresh oil for frying (set deep-fryer temperature at 375°). Dry in paper towels. Serve with a good batida and some very cold beer!
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